Larry Wilson was holding court in the middle of the crown jewel of downtown, Greer City Hall, talking about the future of Greer – what it will be like in 2030. The past is history, Wilson said, Greer is on the move and there’s no time to waste.
The Greer City Hall complex is the crown jewel that showcases the Partnership For Tomorrow and its partnership with the City, Chamber, businesses, economic development and individual community leaders.
Wilson is the chairman of the board of trustees for Partnership For Tomorrow, a community initiative for the future of Greer.
“The beauty of the city complex and Cannon Center is it gives a vibrant feel to the community, and then you get downtown and see the rest of Greer,” Wilson said. Trade Street, undergoing its own revitalization, leads toward the second point in the golden triangle – the Municipal Complex – and the pattern is completed at the just refurbished multi-use Cannon Centre.
The third 5-year campaign has a year remaining with the PFT board gathering ideas from community, business and government leaders to determine the paths for the next 5-year and long-term vision.
Wilson has been a member of PFT since its origin in 1998 and he said his imagination didn’t foresee the reality of a city that is vibrant and is one of the fastest growing in the state. “It (planning) has worked better than I thought when we had our first retreat (1997) in Asheville,” Wilson said. “The past 14 years have been interesting. The first five years we focused on downtown and then the municipal complex and city park. The infrastructure is in place.”
Greer is undergoing an aggressive four-pronged growth pattern – the Wade Hampton Boulevard corridor, residential and medical growth south on Hwy. 14, the coming inland port that will be adjacent to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and BMW Manufacturing Co. of Greer's nearly $1 billion expansion.
Earlier this year, BMW announced a $900 million expansion to increase capacity to 350,000 units by 2014 and bring a new model to its Greer operation.
Greer Plaza and Piedmont Plaza are undergoing complete façade and parking lot makeovers. The first Walmart Neighborhood Market in South Carolina will open in Greer in early 2013 and Kohl’s is expected to open later that year at Piedmont Plaza. In between, a host of restaurants have opened, as recently as Monday with Zaxby’s, Monterrey’s in October and IHOP to be announced at the intersection of Suber Road and Wade Hampton Blvd.
D&D Ford opens its new showroom and service facility on Monday at E. Wade Hampton Blvd.
Several upstate agencies have begun examining long-term transportation needs for the Wade Hampton Blvd. corridor. Greer hosted a symposium this year.
The Gibbs Cancer Center in Greer is scheduled to open late next year across from Village Hospital. Residential communities along Westmoreland Road are expanding and plans for third phases are being developed.
The J. Verne Smith Parkway and Hwy. 101 will be the highway connectors for the inland port, scheduled to begin service 12 months after construction begins. Funding for the $23 million project has already been approved by the South Carolina Port Authority.
GSP is undergoing a $120 million Terminal Improvement Program that is planning to accommodate a million passengers a year by the end of the fourth quarter and up to 2 million passengers a year by 2030. A land use study by GSP is expected before the end of the year that will project industrial and cargo growth. GSP has already accommodated flights from Europe moving automotive supplies to the Upstate.
Wilson said all of these economic factors will paint Greer’s future. “The masterpiece will be a master plan what Greer will look like in 2030 and beyond,” Wilson said. “The inland port will have a tremendous impact on Greer.”
The PFT reported it has surpassed its 5-year plan goals of facilitating:
• 1,000 new jobs (1,398, year-to-date)
• Creation of $125 million in new capital investments ($172.4 million YTD)
• $295 million in retail sales ($684.4 million)
• Creation of $35 million in new payroll ($40.7 million)
• Create venues for local and public art and enhance and beautify entranceways and gateway corridors.
• Implement a property improvement / development grant program.
Wilson said the PFT board will determine the next fundraising campaign. The previous campaign set a $1.3 million goal and pledges surpassed that goal. “The last campaign we had was right in the middle of the recession and we still received 93-94 percent of the pledges,” Wilson said.
Ed Driggers, City Administrator, will chair the board of trustees during the next 5-year plan. “I am confident our direction will continue out of new leadership with new ideas,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the PFT has received phone calls “from five to six communities asking about our planning for the future,” Wilson said. “When I talk to them I emphasize community. No single entity in Greer takes credit for what we do, it’s shared. We are blessed in Greer to have the Chamber, City, PFT, businesses and individuals working together.”